The walk down the hallway seemed like the longest trip Cat had taken. Her feet dragged against the carpet, making small sounds so that Mom hopefully wouldn’t get scared by a sudden knock. Cat felt equal parts anxious to see her mom safe and nervous about what she would say. Her arrival to the bedroom came before she felt she was ready. With a sigh, Cat knocked on the door softly.
“Mom?” she called. “It’s safe to come out now.”
She put her ear to the door, but she couldn’t hear anything. She knocked on the door again and jiggled the doorknob.
“How do I know you’re really Cat?” her mom’s voice came out in a high-pitched tone.
“Um,” Cat began and hesitated. “I don’t know. It’s not like we planned a security question or anything.” She sighed. “C’mon, Mom, it’s not like werewolves can imitate voices.”
“Right. Of course. In all my dealings with werewolves, how could I forget they can’t imitate voices?” Mom was sounding sarcastic, which, given all she had been through, was probably justifiable.
“Just open the door,” Cat replied, rolling her eyes anyway. “Gran wants to talk to you on the porch.”
There was a long pause. If Cat had to guess, it was probably Mom weighing the chance that a werewolf had secret imitation powers. Maybe she was remembering Little Red Riding Hood and wondering if it was really a folktale after all.
To be fair, Silverfur had done a great impression of her mom’s voice earlier. Cat decided against telling Mom that, though, or she’d never leave the room.
There was a sigh on the other side and a shuffling sound. It sounded like Mom dragged something away from the door before the lock clicked and it slowly opened. Mom gave Cat a wide-eyed stare, holding her shoe in one hand.
“Cat,” she said with a sigh of relief, dropping her shoe to the ground.
Mom grabbed Cat and scanned her, exclaiming over what seemed like every scratch. Cat tried to squirm away.
“I’m fine, Mom,” she muttered. “Gran’s waiting for us, though.”
Mom placed a hand on Cat’s forehead and frowned.
“You’ve got a bruise,” she noted. “Are you okay? Should we go to the hospital?”
“I’m fine,” Cat repeated. “Let’s go… Just, um, do me a favor?”
Mom gave a slow, hesitant nod as she put on her shoe.
“Close your eyes ‘til we go outside,” Cat said. “It’s for the best, I promise.”
Mom opened her mouth and then slowly closed it. Cat could feel her internal debate whether to ask what was going on or stay blissfully in the dark.
“Fine,” Mom said, holding Cat’s hand.
Cat led her down the hallway. She cast a glance in the living room. Mom would definitely freak out if she saw the place, covered in ripped, overturned furniture and streaks of blood and a giant silver and red wolf corpse in the middle of the room. She envied Mom, who wouldn’t be the one having nightmares for the next week. She pulled Mom to the front door quickly and then realized it probably would’ve been safer to have used the back door instead.
Gran was sitting on a rocking chair while Nurse Carrol stitched a large gash on her arm. She winced in pain and tried to shoo him away with her free hand. Anne sat on the rails of the porch, watching the pair with a bemused smile, while Bree leaned against a pillar, her gray eyes traveling all over the place as she no doubt scanned for more ominous clouds. Gran let out a small cry of pain and smacked Nurse Carrol.
“Just leave it be,” she grumbled and then looked to the front door. “Mare-Bear, dear, are you okay?”
Mom let out a laugh that sounded like a serial killer in a horror film. Cat let go of Mom’s hand and backed away. She was definitely losing it.
“Am I okay?” she asked in a shrill voice. “Am I okay? What’s going on around here? Werewolves? Fighting? Magic?”
She pulled at her hair and let out another frustrated sound that sounded almost like a scream and a groan mixed together. Gran raised a brow.
“Honestly, Cat handled this a bit better,” Anne noted to Bree.
Mom didn’t seem to hear as she moved on to what Cat recognized as the blubbering phase. It happened when Mom was tired and overwhelmed. She would create partial sentences, sprinkled in with random sounds, and lots of gestures that seemed to imply she was asking important questions and waiting for answers.
Gran gave an understanding nod as she watched Mom add pacing into her blubbering. Cat moved over to sit next to Anne, trying to not get directly involved in this. After a few minutes, Mom paused for air.
“I know it’s a lot to process, dear,” Gran said in a soothing tone. “Maybe it’d be best to have some tea.”
“No,” Cat said quickly.
She immediately felt everyone’s eyes on her and flushed. She looked at Gran and narrowed her eyes.
“You’re trying to give her the tea to make her forget, aren’t you?” she asked.
Gran raised a brow and gave Cat a questioning look, but Cat couldn’t tell if Gran was just acting.
“Mom has every right to know,” Cat said. “It’s not fair you’ve kept it from her so long.”
Gran’s expression was hard to read, but Cat could feel her own eyes welling with hot tears. She wasn’t sure if it was the exhaustion from the fight earlier, from the panic that she could have lost her whole family today, or from the guilt of being a part of the lies to Mom and having her fall prey to Silverfur without even knowing how dangerous he was.
“If she doesn’t know, how can she protect herself?” Cat asked. “It’s her family too.”
“Know what?” Mom asked slowly.
Cat looked from Gran to Mom, having a silent argument with the former. Gran sighed and raised her hands in defeat. She winced again as Nurse Carrol continued with the stitching.
“The werewolf in there is called Silverfur,” Cat said. “He’s the one who killed your parents and tried to kill Gran and me a couple times. Gran’s the Guardian here, which means she makes sure the other Mythics are kept in line and don’t expose the secret to the world.”
Mom’s eyes widened, but Cat could feel the knot in her chest start to unwind.
“Maybe slow it down,” Gran suggested. “I didn’t dump all the information on you at once, dear.”
“And I wished you did,” Cat retorted.
She glanced back at Mom. Her eyes were glazed over again, but it looked like it was from shock and not magic. Cat took that as a sign she was absorbing all the information, and the words she’d been fighting back for weeks tumbled out.
“Oh, and fairies made you come here with mind control but Gran got them out of your head with the amulet you’re wearing,” Cat continued. “And then we kinda fought the fairies and killed them. Not all of them, though. Just the bad ones.” She glanced at Gran. “I don’t think I killed any of them, though. But I totally could have, you know? Gran’s been teaching me how to fight. And about poisons and magic, so I’ve been training and—”
Mom held up a hand to stop Cat, just before she started talking about the poison tests, and sat down on the porch. Like, ignored every chair and just sat on the floor. Cat was starting to think she was going too fast. Maybe there was a reason Gran had spaced things out. The knot in her chest re-tightened, and Cat felt a flood of guilt.
“I need,” Mom said slowly and paused. “Some time. I think.”
Cat took a step towards her mom. Gran cleared her throat and gave a small shake of her head.
“Cat, dear, why don’t we all head inside?” she suggested. “I need you to fetch some potions while Carrol and I start cleaning the living room. Mare-Bear can… collect herself out here for a bit.”
Cat sighed and nodded.
“Oh, don’t leave the porch, though,” Cat said. “Gran has a protective circle around the house, so you’re safe as long as you’re in here and don’t let anyone else in. But I’m sure you learned that lesson, right? I bet Silverfur isn’t the only one who’d try to kill us.”
Anne grabbed Cat’s arm and pulled her into the house. Cat gave her a confused look. Anne was smiling a little, like she was amused with the whole situation.
“You’ll need something to treat your concussion,” she said. “And Betty will need some healing potions. Do you know where they are?”
Cat nodded and led her to the room. Anne held up Gran’s ring of keys.
“You know,” she said as Cat unlocked the door. “You might wanna slow it down with your mom.”
“She’ll be fine,” Cat replied. “It’s better that she knows it, right? I mean, we didn’t tell her anything and then she got mind controlled by a fairy and tricked and almost killed by a werewolf.”
Anne stepped in the room and walked over to the shelves filled with potions. Her finger traced each of the etched labels as she turned her gaze from Cat.
“And both threats have been neutralized,” Anne pointed out, not looking back. “Plus, you kinda just told her the parents she thought died in a car crash were murdered by a werewolf.”
“She should know,” Cat argued. “I wanted to know everything, and she’s my mom.”
“Humans have fragile worlds,” Anne said, pulling out a potion from the shelf. “You just took a hammer to hers and crushed it into a million pieces.”
Mom was always a pragmatic person, she thought. Maybe this was too much too fast for her. She had never looked so… Cat searched for a word.
She had terrified her own mother.
“What should I do?”
Anne didn’t answer, but Cat wasn’t really asking the question to anyone in particular. She looked around.
“Maybe,” she said slowly. “Maybe Gran’s tea is the best solution.”
She had crushed Mom’s world, but that could be fixed. Mom might have strange dreams for a bit, but then she’d be none the wiser.
She looked over at Anne, who was taking another potion bottle from the shelf. Cat wondered if it was a forgetfulness potion. Or a potion to make her stop talking so much. Anne turned to Cat and held out her hand.
“Here,” she said. “This’ll help your concussion. Two drops in any drink.”
Cat nodded glumly and followed Anne to the door. Anne paused and put a hand against Cat’s cheek. It was cold, which seemed to help pull Cat from her thoughts.
“I’m not going to tell you what to do about this situation,” she said. “Because it isn’t my place. I think the best solution might come to you if you talk to the ones actually involved in this, though. Betty did what she thought was best for you when she withheld information, and it turned out you wanted to know everything. You thought your mom wanted to know everything, but she looked pretty shaken out there. Maybe try finding out what your mom wants before you make another decision for her.”
Cat found Mom on the porch an hour later. Her head was starting to clear up, and Gran had found an old household spell that sped up the cleaning process to about thirty minutes. Then, Cat was sent off to the showers. She felt like a new person in clean clothes. She had even put on her headband again, after running a bleach wipe over it several times.
Mom looked about the same, though. Cat sat down on the floor next to her.
“How are you holding up?” she asked.
Mom shook her head slowly.
“I don’t know,” she replied frankly. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this information. I just… I wish I didn’t know, honestly. It was easier before.”
Cat sighed. She had a feeling Mom would say that. She held out a cup of tea.
“This is Gran’s special tea,” she said. “Drinking it will make you forget everything. All the magic and stuff.”
Mom gave it a suspicious look.
“It works,” Cat said. “Gran used it on me a couple times already. If you drink it, you’ll forget most of this and think you were dreaming whatever sliver of a memory remaining.”
“Are you going to drink it too?” Mom asked.
“Why would I?” Cat asked with a small smile, touching her headband. “This is the coolest summer of my life. I have a lot to learn, and I wouldn’t want to forget anything.”
“Then how can I drink this?” Mom asked. “How can I forget everything when you’re going to be in this world fighting god knows what?”
“I can take care of myself,” Cat replied. “I’m pretty sure I’ve already kinda proved that today. And I have Gran.”
Mom sighed, shaking her head slowly.
“Mom,” Cat said, putting the cup of tea in her hands. “I’m going to be fine regardless of whether or not you drink it. I don’t know if you can say the same.”She sighed. “And… I’m sorry for dumping it all on you like that earlier. I didn’t mean to upset you, but I guess I just got overexcited after keeping it all from you for so long.”
Mom looked down at the tea. Cat stood up and brushed off her pants.
“It’s your choice, and no matter what you do I love you,” she said. “Make the choice for yourself. Not for me or Gran, okay?”
Mom slowly stood up.
“I think… I need to lay down,” she said.
Cat nodded and opened the door for her. She watched Mom slowly trudge towards the bedroom. She didn’t even glance at the living room, which was, apart from the giant wolf rug laying in the middle (Gran apparently was being very serious in her threats), exactly how it looked at the start of the day.
Mom was asleep when Cat went in to check on her that night. The cup was on the other side of the bed, empty. Cat sighed and crawled into bed. She cuddled up close to her mom and put her head on her shoulder.
She woke up alone. The cup was gone and the door was cracked open. She could hear Mom’s voice in the distance.
Mom was in the kitchen, cooking up bacon and eggs from the smell of it. Mom’s hair was up in a messy bun, and she hummed along to Broadway music playing on her phone. Gran was sitting at the kitchen table, watching her as she sipped from a coffee cup.
“Morning,” Cat said slowly, shuffling into the room.
“Morning, sweetie,” Mom said, turning to give her a kiss on the cheek. “You’re just in time.”
Cat poured herself a cup of coffee and gave Gran a questioning look. Gran titled her head in response.
“How’d you sleep?” Cat asked, sitting at the table.
“I think I must have crashed,” Mom replied with a shake of her head as she plated the eggs. “I don’t remember much after you and Ma went for a hike.”
“We, uh, visited Gran’s friend at the library,” she said. “And came home a bit late.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” Mom said, setting three plates on the table.
Cat picked at her food, casting sideways glances at Mom. She seemed like she was her usual self again. She wasn’t sure why that thought was so disappointing to her.
“I should probably leave in about an hour,” Mom said, checking her watch. “I really need to get back to the office before I get fired.” She chuckled.
“I’m staying for longer,” Cat replied slowly.
“I know, sweetie,” Mom said with a soft smile. “Your gran has been telling me about your little adventures together.”
“Oh yes,” Gran jumped in. “Our breakfast dates and hiking trips. And today we’re dusting together.”
Mom mouthed a thank you to Cat. When Cat walked her to the car later, Mom pulled Cat into a big hug.
“Thanks for being so patient with her,” Mom whispered. “I know this isn’t the summer you were planning for.”
“It’s better than what I was planning,” Cat said honestly.
“Take care of her,” Mom said. “She’s old, you know, and might need some rest with all the excitement going on.”
“Of course,” she said. “Call me when you get home.”
Mom nodded and let go from the hug. She climbed into the car as Cat retreated to the porch. Cat waved at the car until it had disappeared from view.
“She’s gone!” Cat called through the open door.
“Good, because it’s time for training.”
“Are you serious?”
“I told you I wasn’t going to go easy on you.”
“We literally just took on all the bad guys in this zip code,” Cat said. “Can’t we, just, go visit Ms. Peregrine instead?”
“She’s on bed rest until the rest of her wounds heal,” Gran’s voice responded. “Now come on.”
Cat huffed and walked inside.
“You know, Mom says you’re getting old and should be resting,” she called into the empty house.
She looked around.
She felt a knotted hand grab her arm. She felt herself jerked into the air and tipped upside down. Gran had flipped her.